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The Eyes that Bled Crimson

By hybridial All Rights Reserved ©

Thriller / Scifi

Opening Scenes

Sweat soaked my brow and turbulence rocked my joints as I grappled with the controls of the shuttle. I was entering an asteroid field, God help me. It was my only option to get away from whatever bounty hunters were on my tail. They'd follow me in here, but I didn't rate they're chances at following me out. I had a big advantage they didn't, but I was still going to need a lot of lady luck, or I'd be hoping they gave me a half decent epitaph. I could see all the paths I had to avoid. The most advanced computer built by humans would struggle to do this many calculations this fast and relay me the data I needed in a manner I could react to. I grinded my teeth as the pursuing blips on my radar disappeared one by one. It was difficulty to have sympathy for people like that, but I gave a nano of thought to the poor bastards anyway. Manually piloting the shuttle physically took a toll as all the gravitational forces exerting on the craft fought with me whenever I tried to manoeuvre, but the impossible was possible to me now. Micro-asteroids pelted the ship like a cosmic hailstorm and conceivably, one unlucky hit would tear open the hull and I'd be done for. Right now I don't know what was making me do this. Did I even have a reason to run? Everything I've done since shooting Vattic seemed like pure instinct. Clear space entered my sight and I began to feel the elation that comes with doing the impossible, but suddenly my vision cut me right back to size. My vision filled with sepia, warning of an unavoidable collision. I pulled back and to the left as hard as I could, but it was never going to be enough. I felt a massive spike of force spin the shuttle out of control, and the last thing I remember was feeling ready to vomit as the darkness took me.

The first sensation I felt when I felt anything, was a pounding headache. The second was the absence of feeling around my eyes; that was something I had to get used to as these implants just weren’t quite designed for my physiology. The third was difficult to explain. I felt like my skin was crawling, and I lay on what felt uncomfortably like the bare flesh of something alive. It even felt warm, and I could feel pulsing. Finally opening my eyes, they gulped in the weak light emanating from a strange bulbous orb hanging above me. A weird clicking noise played an irritating beat on my eardrums. I figured all this was a bit specific for the afterlife so I was still alive, but everything around me was alien. My shuttle must have sent out an automated distress call after I fell unconscious and someone had responded to the call. I was so lucky to have survived that collision.

I heard the clicking noise grow louder, and a shadow engulfed over me. She was of a species I had never seen before. Her skin was paler than mine and as an Albino; that was stating something. Her head was gaunt and elongated but housed quite beautifully rounded yellow eyes dominated by slit pupils. Crowning her head was what looked like black plates, part of an exoskeleton that buttressed the hind of her entire body. The obverse from her head downwards was naked and feminine.

“So you finally wake, human.” Her voice was difficult to place and sounded almost like the chirping of a bird, but she was speaking English, if clumsily “Do you feel injured?”

I shook my head, as I tried to collect my muddled up brain.

“Good. Now, can you talk?”

A logical question. I gave her my best attempt at a logical answer.

“Somewhat, better when my head isn’t killing me,” I rubbed my forehead. I felt lumps and knew there’d be bruises. I could not imagine that, if I were the first human being this alien had laid eyes on, and for all I knew I was, that I was a very worthy specimen.

“I recently heard a race called the Krinn have been making noises about joining the greater galactic community, would you be one?”

“You have heard with accuracy,” She replied tacitly, “so do you need to rest longer or can you stand?”

I replied with action. The chamber we were in was of a moderate size and seemed to be cocooned by a fleshy material that seemed to behave like a membrane, shifting and reflecting the modest light. I had been laying in some kind of bio-casket that had been left open, it was most likely used for storage.

“That was the best we could do for you. We Krinn do not lie flat, but curl into a ball when we slumber.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it. Did my shuttle survive the impact?” I was starting to remember everything that happened up till now.

“It was badly damaged, and we don't have parts on board to repair it. I'm sorry,” she replied as she pulled on some flesh dongles jutting out what I guessed passed for a terminal on this strange bio-vessel. “I have not introduced myself yet. My name is Do-Mi-Ti,” she said the name in a series of short, sharp intonations that my portable translator didn’t know what to do with, “and I am the elected Ambassador of the Krinn to the Consortium of Kismet.”

Now that's what I wanted to hear. Kismet was one of the places I could go, escape to from my past life and try to start anew. Still, I didn't get my hopes up.

“My name is Richard Hawke, Ambassador. I would be immensely grateful if you can grant me passage to Kismet, it was where I was headed.”

Do-Mi-Ti smiled at me, revealing a mouth full of sharp fangs. Not the most comforting sight.

“Right now you are not in a position to make requests. You were flying through an asteroid shower whilst being chased, or so my navigator told me. What are you running from, Mr. Hawke? I need to know you are not a security risk. It took a lot of persuasion on my part to have you brought aboard, for us to even share the same room in private, and all on a curious whim. So be honest with me, or I might feed you to SI-KA.”


“This ship. It's a living entity, Mr. Hawke, and it is fueled with biomatter. Its never ate a human before, but it might find out today.” She was serious. For one thing, my eyes told me she had half a metre and forty kilos on me; she was no small, delicate flower, and another, I detected venom in her talons. She also had me cornered; they had seen that I was being chased down by human authorities. I decided perhaps the fundamental truth was the best solution here.

“It's simple. I killed a man.” Do-Mi-Ti poured herself some yellowy viscous liquid.

“I'd offer you but I think would probably burn your liver out, please, go ahead, why did you do this?” That was too difficult for me to say. My throat had never felt drier as I reflected upon my motives. They had names and they were the most dear things to me in the goddamn universe. But I couldn't say their names, so I said the only word that made sense.

“Retribution.” Do-Mi-Ti gulped down her acidic concoction and responded.

“I'm sure you have a tale to tell about those Aeglyth implant-enhanced eyes.” Dammit, she must have conducted an examination of me whilst I was out.

“Yeah... ” Cat was out the bag. Aeglyth technology was so valuable; it was very possible for my eyes alone that she might pluck them out and feed me to her SI-KA. That or hand me straight to Astynios Ne, the manufacturers of the technology. Their reputation for dealing with thieves was infamous throughout the cluster, and they seemingly operated with no regard for laws except their own. I couldn't really find an explanation, not without betraying a promise I made.

“You're not going to tell me, are you? I suppose it's none of my business, but it certainly explains how you navigated the meteorites. Tell me, what it is it like to see the universe as the Aeglyth see? I sighed internally in relief. It seemed she was willing to let those matters stay private.

“It's very convenient.” She laughed. At least I thought it was a laugh, it sounded more like a violin being played badly.

“Sounds like them. So you took revenge on this man for his sins against you. Why do they chase you, were you not in the right?” I shrugged.

“Humans can be particular about the law.”

“I see. Well, it sounds to me like reaching Kismet and out of the reach of those that seek you would be very useful to you. However, I am uncertain I can trust you. But then again, there are many who would pay me generously for you. The teachings of Si-Val-Les would tell me to exploit your situation for the quickest profit with the least amount of risk to myself.”

“Those sound like smart teachings, but I don’t think you’d be musing about it if that was really what you are going to do with me,” I suggested, hoping to influence her in whatever ways I could.

“Well, as an Ambassador, such actions do go against the ethics of such a station. Say I do offer you passage, can I expect something in return?” There wasn't a whole lot I could offer her, being a beaten up sack of flesh and bones, but what I could, I did.

“Consider me at your service. I don’t have much choice.” She stood up and leaned over me, bringing her head quite close. It seemed she didn't want anyone overhearing her now as she whispered.

“I fear a certain personage on this vessel wants to discredit me, if not just simply kill me, to assail my position. The Ambassadorship to Kismet is a task I defeated many for the undertaking, and one of my most intense rivals is aboard this ship, having taken a subjugate role. She seethes, I can tell. I am almost certain she plans for my downfall.”

I reached in my pocket for my lucky pair of shades but found my vest pocket empty.
“Oh, your belongings were taken from you; you did have a blaster after all. Just a precaution; I will have it all returned to your quarters, which will be situated next to mine,” she wasted no time getting into business, “And your projectile based weapon will work, but not against our exoskeletons. Aim for the flesh, if you are forced to use it.” I was taken somewhat aback at her attitude.

“You seem convinced I’ll have to.” She made a fist to emphasise her point.

“You don’t know Re-Va-So. She is the incarnation of ruthlessness, a danger to all around her. If you succeed in ensuring I go undamaged by her actions, I will take you to Kismet, however, if not, I can hand you over to whoever will pay more on Proxima.”

“I’m in.”

“I thought you might,” she said, before she left through the portal.

“Stay here, you'll need one of your belongings before leaving this room.” Simple enough to guess, my visor shades, which would allow me to hide my eye implants in anyone else's presence. Sure enough, she returned shortly with them delicately in her talons.

“I was... careful with them.”

“You mean you looked.” She turned slightly green, around her cheeks.

“Apologies. Come, I must introduce you to my male counterpart, Te-Sa-Va,” she said, changing the subject, not that I wanted to dwell on it. She gestured me to follow her, and frankly I felt it like the cracking of a whip. I wondered just what I had got myself into.

As we made out way through the guts of SI-KA, I tried my best to ignore the pulsing red and blue arteries embedded in the pink fleshy walls. I wouldn’t want to try to sell Krinn Bio-Ship cruises on Earth, I didn’t envisage being able to see a the vessel's circulatory system would go over so well as a selling point. Deep under a layer of thick, protective and transparent membrane, I saw the pulsing, thick veins of the creature, working hard to fuel a metabolism far in excess of any planetary creature. The ambassador gave me the full tour, regretably. I would rather not dwell on seeing SI-KA’s digestive tract or its waste excretion systems ever again, especially with the detailed data my eyes provided me. Various male and female Krinn went about their business but some did show curiosity, as none had seen a human before. A mini-swarm of onlookers gathered in what I surmised as the mess hall, and they almost swamped me. Do-Mi-Ti pulled me past impatiently though, scolding her subordinates that they can see all the humans they want when we reach Proxima for refuelling. Proxima was a human run colony, the last vestige of human held territory, and thus my last hurdle to escape my sins.

“Do not worry, Mr. Hawke, you will be granted full diplomatic immunity, you are under my employ as ambassadorial security. Consider yourself a Krinn male in the short term.”

Not a pleasant thought, the main thing I had heard about the Krinn was their birthing process, which saw the Male carry the young and then be eaten inside out at the conception. It was the only real talking point about them back home in the year since they were first encountered. Yes, I didn't say it out loud, but I was not considering myself a Krinn male.

Finally, we reached the core of SI-KA, which was housed in a rather large natal chamber. Within, connected by various pulmonary and coronary valves and shielded underneath dense chitin, beat its great heart. Such a sight was so alien to me, but I realised that as my only path that did not involve spending most of my life behind an electromagnetic field in Neo Angeles Penn State was journeying further into the voids of space, such sights were going to become more familiar to me. It was oddly beautiful.

“Ambassador, if I may ask, is SI-KA, and other vessels like it, are they sentient?”

“You may, but next time, wait for my permission. You aren’t very good at following Krinn etiquette.”

“I apologise.”

“No matter, I’ll send you a file on it later. To answer your question, not as we are, but moreso than Tiv-Ar.” I shot her a questioning glance.

“Land animals on Krinn-Eva. Like,” she paused, “Gods?”

“Dogs?” She made an unintelligible noise that I think expressed gratitude for my correction.

“yes, Dogs. I have seen images of such creatures. Look quite tasty. Anyway, it is difficult to explain. But SI-KA, and its kind, the Tiv-En, we have altered them, a complex biochemical process. But they are loyal to us, protect us. We maintain them and express gratitude through feeding.”

“Does it like having a human aboard?” I was worried just a little about the approval of the creature who’s innards I was gracing with my presence.

“It accepts any who are invited. If we are boarded by inter...,”

“…lopers?” I was hoping my language assistance wasn’t irritating her, but if so, she showed no signs of it.

“Yes, Interlopers. It has ways of dealing with them,” she grinned, as disconcertingly as before, “as do we; but relax, you are our honoured guest.”

We moved into an adjacent chamber and passed through a thick membrane in the wall which opened up to allow us passage.

“In this contemporary age, in which masculinity has been asserted, every Krinn female occupying a position of import has a direct male equivalent of equal authority,” Do-Mi-Ti gestured towards a male Krinn who rose from his terminal desk to greet me, “this is Te-Sa-Va, ambassador to the consortium of Kismet.” The differences between male and female Krinn weren’t vast but still, he was smaller and lighter than Do, and his eyes were pupil-less. He had more of that odd black chitin on his front quarters and back but less on his limbs. He still had rather sharp talons and a mouth of teeth only a mother could love. That mouth was also much wider, so watching him talk was kind of like watching a puppet mouth a ventriloquist's words. He himself projected an air of indifference to me

“So this is the human, Do-Mi-Ti, he doesn’t look like much. Picking up aliens whilst on a major diplomatic tour is irresponsible. Why must you always be so impulsive?” Do-Mi-Ti narrowed her eyes. Somehow I imagined these two would make a good married couple. Well, if the marriage lasted more than the consummation.

“Re-Va-So is trying to undermine me. I only trust you, SI-KA, and this human, Te-Sa-Va. And you would be unable to put a bullet in that…” to be honest, I had no idea what either of them said next as they dropped all pretence of communicating in English for my benefit. And my translator hadn't been programmed with their language yet. My eye’s systems did ask me if I wanted it to run a translation, yet another feature from a nigh infinite list, but, I decided all I’d get from that is how to curse effectively in Krinn-ese. Both raised their mandibles a lot as they disputed, and Do extended her talons more than once.

They’d really be a great married couple.

“Fine, as you wish,” Te-Sa-Va said as he reverted to English, “I don’t have much of a problem with a human onboard, but I’d rather we drop him off at Proxima. He will draw too many questions from the Consortium representatives.”

“You do not outrank me, Te-Sa-Va, he stays. I will take responsibility for him, if he proves to be untrustworthy; I will deal with him myself.” Those talons were still extended. I thought better of putting in a word in my defence. She expected only to be proven by action and not words. She would have her proof, so long as it would take me to Kismet. Te chirped angrily, but he couldn’t veto her decision.

“Make sure you keep him away from SI-KA’s important systems, and away from Re-Va-So. She will know why you’ve done this and chances are she will take action because of it.”

“So you do admit she is scheming against me!” Te shrugged his mandibles.

“She schemes against everyone.” Do-Mi-Ti laughed haughtily.

“True, but she does eye my position. Anyway, this human’s name is Richard Hawke.” Te sat back down and didn’t acknowledge that. It felt nice to be cared for.

When we left, we finally headed towards the ship’s living quarters.

“I can provide you with a biocasket like the one you woke up in, your belongings, water, and some Nindral verooen.”

“Verooen? I heard that tastes like ash.” She eyed me darkly, displeased I guess with my questioning of her hospitality, another protocol faux pas I guessed.

“You are free to eat anything we have aboard, Mr. Hawke, but only the Verooen lacks a pulse. You humans only eat dead things or so I’m told.” I gave my gut response.

“Verooen it is then.”

Verooen is basically Nindral bread, they make it from the Veroo, a grain native to their homeworld. It’s highly nutritious, carrying with it many health benefits, various vitamins, iron, even an oil with omega three properties, not to mention is edible for all known species. A true miracle food really.

But I had heard truly about how it tasted.

Still, I didn’t have a lot of choice, it was all the Krinn had on board that wouldn’t likely crawl back out my gullet. At least they appreciated a good glass of water like most species, it was cool and refreshing, although couldn’t quite wash the Verooen qualities off my tongue. Along with the nuptials, I had received a Krinn datapad. It was an odd thing, different from the book resembling design we humans built. It was more like an orb encased in a fleshy base which ended in elongated claws at the corners. It was kind of strange to operate, my best guess was it was designed so that it would be held in a Krinn's claws whilst their mandibles operated it's green fleshy pads. I had to place it on table top operate it, losing any advantage of portability. Text would appear on the orb as I pushed buttons, symbols which were in written Krinn. Ordinarily, I would never have been able to read this, and giving one to me would have been pointless. However, my crystalline implants had many features, and deciphering was one of them. It only took a few minutes, even though this was its first encounter with the Krinn writing as much as mine to provide me with a translation which appeared underneath the Krinn letterings in my vision. What I had been sent was a list of protocols relating to the rules and regulations governing the behaviours of Krinn dignitaries. I skimmed most of it, finding it all to be rather irrelevant to my situation, but a passage then caught my eye.

As I read, I heard a strange high pitched beep. It was the doorbell, essentially.

“Come in.”

The fleshy portal to the chamber slid open, and what appeared to be a male Krinn entered, dumped something on the table in front of me, and then left, all without so much as an acknowledging grunt.

Examining what he had left, I realised it was what Do-Mi-Ti promised me, my belongings, contained in a leathery satchel. I pulled my holster out replete with the ensuring weight of my Kensington K22 rail blaster and accompanying clips. Just as I was finished, the bell went again. For some reason, I felt an ominous tension. I decided to answer the door myself instead of responding as before.

Pulling the dongle that opened the door, I looked up to see a Krinn female that was not Do-Mi-Ti bear down on me with an intense stare. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence as she sized me up.

“So, you are the human I’ve heard about,”

“I don’t see any other humans around here.” This Krinn had dark meticulous eyes and an aloofness that outstripped even the two Ambassadors. Only one Krinn aboard was likely to come across with this sense of entitlement.

“Indeed. Sorry, I have not introduced myself. I am Re-Va-So, Senior Attendant to the official diplomatic convoy to Kismet.”

“Richard Hawke, at your service, Attendant.”

“May I come in? I have things I wish to discuss with you,” Do-Mi-Ti's nemesis requested with forced politeness. Clearly she was taking the classy route, for now at least.

“Of course, I have time for anyone on the delegation in my new role within security.” My guest nodded and sat down on one of the embedded, fleshy sofas within the chamber.

“The Ambassador has been very kind in giving you a role on the ship instead of handing you straight to your people on Proxima. I am partly curious about the kind of man she would show such kindness to.”

“I'm standing right here to sate your curiosity.”

“Hmph, well you certainly aren't physically very impressive. Then again, I hear you humans on average aren't.”

“The Aeglyth tend to be smaller than us but I'd never say they didn't impress me.”

“Good point I suppose. But they can compensate with their technological wisdom. What do you humans have?” I wasn't sure where this line of questioning was heading, but it was pretty clear Re-Va-So wanted to know if I was a threat to her in any way.

“Put a good blaster in any one's hands and they can be dangerous enough. But some of us are better at using them than others. Some of us simply know how better to defend ourselves as well.”

“And you are trained?”

“Ex-cop, I have been trained to deal with threatening situations. Politics is much less my forte.”

“Really? It seems to me you are well equipped considering the political favour you have already earned from my Superior.” She couldn't hide the venom in her voice when referring to the Ambassador with that title.

“Luck, a little of it goes a long way.” Re-Va-So looked much like Do-Mi-Ti to me, she was more or less equally beautiful, elegant, sculpted cheeks and eyes like dark stars upon the chalk white of their skin. But she seemed more gaunt, and more intimidating. And Do-Mi-Ti already rated pretty high there. She crossed her ebony armoured thighs, giving me a good glimpse of the chitin talons that extended from her naturally grown greaves.

“Good fortune is finite. To really succeed in the hive, and everywhere else I'm sure, you have to be able to assess the coming turns of sentiment.”

“Is that another set of teachings the Krinn follow.”

“To me it's just common sense. In the Krinn hive we females hold the power. The males like to think they have gained traction but it is a surface reflection at best. We need them to breed, and it is their role to breed. The requirement of a male equivalent for every role of authority in our society is a farce and one day it will be seen for what it is. But, that is another matter and doesn't concern a human like you.”
“No, it does not. Thankfully.”

“But in every situation one must be able to see where the power is. And I can be as kind and gracious as the Ambassador. I would favour you as much as she does.”

I averted my gaze as I considered her proposition.

“And what do I have to gain from that? You're not the one with the power right now.”

She winced. It was clearly a sore subject for her.

“No, you are right, Richard Hawke. But, that may not remain so for long.”

“It seems to me that the Ambassador is right to be suspicious of you.”

“She is weak and fearful, and knows she cannot cheat me of my destiny for much longer,” Re-Va-So stood up to emphasise her proclamation, then approached me in a sensual manner.

“Listen. If you were to... assist me, I would be more than willing to accommodate you. I would even give you the means to start a life on Kismet with greater advantages than the Ambassador would ever dream of offering you. To her, she is doing you a favour and only in return for your services in a game that is likely to get you killed. I on the other hand, would at least reward you appropriately for services rendered.”

She had a knack for persuasion and disguising her ill intentions in reasoned language, however, she was offering me payment in exchange for being an accessory towards her intentions to Do-Mi-Ti. It wasn't honest and I didn't trust her in the slightest.

“Like what, what would you have me do?”

“Nothing violent, I assure you. Do-Mi-Ti is very paranoid. She thinks that I intend her physical harm. That's not so. I feel she just doesn't have the competencies that I do and I intend to expose that matter to the Hive. All I am asking you to do is exactly what she wants you to do, only do it really well, and with an eye for her behaviour and adherence to protocol.”

“And I suppose I would try and give you some ammunition to use against her.”

“You need not doctor anything to suit what you think I want. Just give me a private but honest assessment.”

“What you are asking, reasonable though you might believe it is, still would be seen as solicited surveillance under your own protocols. And the punishments for those that indulge in what is seen as criminal behaviour for the Ambassadorial staff is severe.”

“I have the interests of the Hive at heart. You human, clearly do not, and I suppose I was naïve to think you'd care about anything other than your own leathery hide. Rest assured, the Consulate will hear of Do-Mi-Ti's impertinence in employing a third party alien on her staff.”

“That maybe impertinent, but it is not illegal or I'm sure she would not have done it. Now, is that all, Aide Re-Va-So?” She stood up and gave me one final poisonous look, before composing herself far more diplomatically.

“It is. I thank you for your time.” She left, the flesh of Si-Ka practically wilting around her. She was all sugar and fairycakes, that one. I yawned. It had been some time that I had some honest sleep, the kind you don't get from being knocked unconscious. Fortunately I felt I'd be so tired that I didn't think I'd be visited by the Sandman. He would have nothing pleasant to bring me. Although a proper bed might have been nice.

I had no idea what the time was when I heard the door chirping again, this time repeatedly and with no heed at all for my fatigue. Had to be the ambassador. I got up and absent mindedly opened the door, forgetting I had no shirt on.

“Ambassador,” I nodded, seeing her. She came in with no invite.

“You don't exactly look prepared for security detail Mr. Hawke.”

“Well Ambassador, humans do need to sleep about a third of the day on average.” She chirped in such a way that I thought it might been the equivalent of a tut.

“How inefficient. It's just as well I only need you for six hours or so. You will have a little more time to sleep before that time, I suggest you use it”

“Noted. So what can I do for you now?”

“I was informed my aide paid you a visit earlier. May I ask what it was about?”

“Do you want me to say anything in particular?”

“Nothing more than the truth, and be frank.”

“She told me you were incompetent.” Do Mi Ti tossed me my shirt, which I put back on. Basic decency still mattered I guess.

“She's been saying that ever since I was chosen instead of her. Never mind that I was chosen by committee. I earned this. Do you know what it feels like to have someone be trying to openly destroy you through jealousy? And your powerless to do anything about it.”

In my past, I was part of an Organised crime investigation unit that specialised in undercover and infiltration. Being unable to act on things was a part of the job, much like being a politician or a diplomat.

“She wanted me to-” I began to say before Do-Mi-Ti silenced me with a talon across my lips.

“As much as I do want to hear it... you don't realise what kind of situation you would be embroiled in if you carry on this sentence.” I took the hint. “I'm sorry, I came here half tempted to make you admit something. It would give me something I need to damage her, but she would retaliate against you. She could have you killed and there would be nothing done about it. Your life has no value under your current circumstances, other than the value it has to me,” she said as she ran a talon along my cheek. I think it was a gesture of trust more than sensuality.“I'll protect you as long as you protect me. I made a bargain and I will keep to it. I try to honour my promises in my line of work, if nothing else.”

“I think I understand. I will repay your kindness.” She nodded, and then pulled away, turning to leave. Once at the doorway she turned back to me.

“Anyway, we will be arriving on Proxima tomorrow. Make sure you are ready to disembark by 0800 Proxima time; we will have to clean you up before attending the trade summit a few hours later, and we don't have the means to do it onboard so it will need to be done on the station. There will be representatives for your planet, Nindral and Bivar. There will also be a function held immediately afterwards and formal dress is required. I know the clothes you wear now would not be considered presentable by your fellow human attendees,” she scanned me up and down, probably seeing me as too scruffy the way I was.

“Understood.” Whilst I can't say I was in the mood for all this noise, I didn't have a choice. Just had to pretend this was another Syndicate dig. It wasn't really new to me, the expensive tuxedos, the rituals of respectability, the feeling that every one around you was a well dressed predator. This wasn't going to be any different, just instead of discussing smuggling, it'll be trade. Although in the choice between discussing smuggling with syndicate scum and trade with eight foot tall reptiles with Gorilla torsos, such as the denizens of Bivar were, I might have preferred the former.

“You are obedient, I like that.” She smiled again, this time, this one more along the lines of actually-pleasant. “Te-Sa-Va is such a bore, I’d much rather have you at my side at the function, talking with the tedious dignitaries and their sycophantic attendants. I imagine you will make things more interesting.”

“I make no promises, Ambassador, and my diplomatic etiquette is rather rusty.”

“I’ve seen, but that’s sometimes a good thing.” She floated through the membrane, satisfied clearly with her plans for this evening. I was still absorbing everything that was happening. I was only a day removed from committing a murder, only a week removed from witnessing my family murdered. Now all of a sudden I was playing bodyguard for a Krinn? Fate dealt such a strange hand sometimes. And what of my destination: Kismet? I didn’t know what awaited me there, but if it was as interesting as how I was getting there, then I was going to need a bigger gun.

It didn’t surprise me too much that the first thing we encountered upon arriving at Proxima was a line for me from Jason Novak. I was sitting and admiring at the hologaphic view of the station that I had accessed through the chamber's central terminal, a necessity for the lack of windows, and it was a spectacular view. It was like a giant snowglobe hovering above the moon of Proxima Centauri IV, or Newton as it had been nicknamed after the first ship to come here, and within that globe was a vast urban mass. It was a shame to not get a closer look but I had to answer my summons. Do-Mi-Ti had me take it up on SI-KA’s bridge. The bridge was located in the equivalent of the creature’s skull. Brain matter of a dull white shade was embedded in the roof of the chamber and supported by pink fleshy struts. The main screen was I think connected to the vessel’s corneas, and the images generated from the radio signal interacting with the creatures’ rods and cones. An impressive set up, many human scientists would kill to absolve their curiosity on a Krinn vessel, not necessarily because they were more advanced, but more that their technology had such a different basis from our own. I saw the grim and determined face of my elder colleague appear in the generated window. His darkened eyes betrayed his recent restlessness, and his sandy goatee hadn't met a razor in the time since my escape. He kept tugging on his emblazoned blue and black chest armour. A female officer with a black ponytail, the equivalent armour and a mask of business etched on her face was next to him, holding out a datapad. Most likely a crash course on Krinn protocol so he didn't piss off Do-Mi-Ti. Some things never really change even when dealing with aliens.

“Richard, I heard right then, the Krinn delegation to Kismet did pick you up. You are a lucky son of a bitch, don’t know how the hell you got through that asteroid shower in one piece,” he seemed, if nothing else, genuinely happy I survived. I pointed to the bumps I still had on my head.

“I don’t know about one piece, but yeah, somehow I’m standing here now.”

“Well, I only wanted to speak to you to check the Krinn haven’t done anything untoward to you. My business is with Ambassadors Do-Mi-Ti and Te-Sa-Va.” Do-Mi-Ti stepped down from the raised platform of the control deck and stood next to me.

“I am here, and I have Te-Sa-Va’s permission to speak for the both of us.” Novak nodded, showing some diplomatic etiquette. I knew he wasn’t much better as this than I was.

“Ambassador, I must make a formal request that this man be extradited from your ship back into our hands, I have a subpoena for his arrest on the charge of first degree murder, four counts.”

“I’m afraid with all due respect, Mr. Novak, that I have made Mr. Hawke part of my delegation, extending all rights of diplomatic immunity towards him for our stay here at Proxima, until we reach Kismet where the Earth authorities are not recognised.” Novak looked like he expected this. He knew I was resourceful, but he also probably knew I’m a lucky bastard for the Krinn to take such a sudden liking for me. If he was happy now, he didn't show it, instead eyeing me like I was his missed catch of the day.

“I understand, I’ve been instructed to avoid a diplomatic incident with your delegation. Hawke.”

“Yes, Jason?”

“You ever set foot in human space again, your ass is mine.”

“I know.” It was just the way things had to be. I know Novak didn’t hate me. Well he did. But more for the headaches I caused him than anything else.

“We’ll never be able to ship Vattic to a mining colony now, unless they mine for Duridium in hell,” he said, clearly hoping that was the case.

“I’d like to think he’s suffering worse than that.” Novak nodded.

“Off the record, I really understand why you did it. Guess this is goodbye, I don’t expect to see you again unless it’s in a cage.”

“Take care, Jason, try not to follow my example.” He grunted, and cut off the signal. I’d have figured he’d have been more persistent, but the last thing the heads here on Proxima probably wanted was to upset the Krinn.“Well, you can see the advantages that come with the ambassadorial station, Mr. Hawke.” Do-Mi-Ti seemed a natural for authority, so I reminded myself never to undermine it. Looking at the bridge crew, who all kept their heads bowed and their attention to their terminals, discipline must have been a big deal to the Krinn.

“Indeed. No wonder Re-Va-So wants to upgrade her station, at your expense.” She grunted angrily at the mention of her nemesis’ name.

“As soon as I can catch her in the act, she’ll be off my delegation faster than SI-KA digests Verooen.”

“I wondered why you had that stuff on board.” Not sure what I thought of being fed the same as the ship we were riding in. “Where is she, anyway?” The question put a gleeful smile on the ambassador’s face.

“I punished her for her transgression earlier, she never realised I saw it. I assigned her to the pancreatic maintenance bay for the foreseeable future.”

“I imagine she was furious.”

“Didn’t even try to hide it.” She clearly liked revelling in the thoughts of Re-Va –So getting covered in digested muck. “But her station as attendant means she will be attending the function. I have put some irritating measures ahead of her to delay her arrival but I cannot deny her completely. Come, we will be docking in a short while, we must prepare to disembark. And you will need a collision course in… foot licking?”

“Close enough.”

It was three hours before the start of the Trade summit which was to be held in the Embassy chambers, time that Ambassador Do-Mi-Ti deemed necessary for preparation. The concourse of Proxima's Embassy was something of a high rolling mini-economy. All manners of establishments promised an incredibly variety of clothes, food and souveniers. Most of it was human, but it was clear that many of the stores were experimenting with alien merch. The hustle and bustle of the giant concourse reminded me of the asteroid field, it was that packed. Fortunately we weren't down there, but above on an overlooking balcony outside a cafe. Tables were lined up along the large metal surface. With us were two Krinn guards (one male and one female, I did notice the pattern), two male Embassy guards who had met us, and Te-Sa-Va. Coffee had been provided for everyone, and I finally got some decent food in me, steak.

“Ambassador, I know you both have two aides, where are they?” I asked in between mouthfuls. Re-Va-So was just one of four aides after all, it was odd I hadn't seen the other three.

“They are actually all off on important tasks. If we had more time, they would be here with us, but, they only have a matter of hours to make sure the summit and the function are equipped to satisfy Krinn etiquette.” I nodded. The Attendants were more about that than security, so right now I was the most senior member of her cadre. I might have been honoured under better circumstances. “So, what's the plan now?” Do-Mi-Ti had delicately tasted the black coffee.

“Ah, this does taste good when it is strongly black. No wonder the Hive wants to start trading in these beans.” My coffee had my usual milk and two sugars, and when I had explained to the Krinn what those were, they were horrified about the first and nonplussed about the second, “We needs to get outfits.” I looked up from my food, my wonderful food, because I didn't quite get that.

“Plural? I thought it was just me that needed suited and booted.” The ambassador dumped the rest of the coffee down her gullet, seemingly not caring about how hot it was, and replied,

“We were asked if we wouldn't mind to dress for the occasion. Something about, since the other races are doing it, it's only fair we do. It's idiotic if you ask me but, sometimes even ambassadors have to humiliate themselves for the greater good.” Internally I smirked. I didn't do it externally because I didn't want my lips torn off. Do-Mi-Ti got up saying she wanted more coffee so I directed my next question at her male equivalent.

“It seems the Krinn don't have their own form of dress, so what will you be wearing?” Te-Sa-Va was also eating steak but his overly wide jaw made getting the pieces in there to stay in there look like it took some work. “Ka-Sach, how do you humans use these metal spears,” he complained, clearly not liking his fork, “we'll be wearing human dress, obviously,” his reply seemed to question my intellect. I ignored that.

“But no human tailored clothes would fit a Krinn?”

“We ordered custom tailored clothes in advance from Rettwins, the clothes establishment downstairs. Do-Mi-Ti wasn't very interested however, so I made sure that the correct attire was ordered. The genders are expected to dress quite differently, from what I gathered of the other races clothing habits.” I was a little surprised at the identifiable note of enthusiam in Te-Sa-Va's voice.

“Really, I didn't get the impression you cared much about humans before.” Te-Sa-Va grinned.

“I just wasn't interested in you.” That was all he would say, as he continued to fight his piece of condemned beef. I was starting to wonder how this oddball became an ambassador. Do-Mi-Ti brought back a coffee for me too upon her return.

“These premises are quaint, I like them,” she said.

“There's a million of them in human space. You'd get sick of them pretty quickly,” I replied as I made my coffee drinkable from the table condiments.

“Perhaps. I imagine it's hard for you to look at the positive side of things, Mr. Hawke, in my experience anyone involved with the enforcement of law is like that.”

“We weren't paid to smile in my department.” Do-Mi-Ti smiled.

“That seems to be the difference between us.” I couldn't help myself, and let my lips curl. I did kinda like her, somehow.

“Why don't you tell me a bit about yourself. No pressure, leave out anything you feel you have to, I'd just like to know a little more about my impulsively hired new bodyguard.” I thought, why not, might as well tell her a bit of backstory.

“I was born in Lyon, in France, but moved to Neo Angeles when I was four.”

“Ah, the human capital of trade. I can see why Kismet might call out to you.” Yeah, Neo Angeles was rebuilt over the ruins of Los Angeles after the last Total War. It was constructed to have the largest space port on the planet, and it was the first to receive trade from First contact with the Nindral. Kind of a beacon for humanity and a reminder that when we weren't destroying things, we weren't half bad at building them. As such, most aliens would know it even if they couldn't tell you the name of any other Earth cities. “Yeah, I'm used to growing up around great freighters. Used to being around aliens to. My dad was a Cargo Inspector and my mom a steward. Pretty painstakingly average.”

“Have you seen them recently?” I swigged my coffee.

“No, after I got married, they moved to Mars. Dream retirement, and it was hard for me to get enough time from work to make the trip.” I didn't intend to say more, crushed my polystyrene cup and tossed it in the nearby bin.

“I see. Well, since you shared, I will. I was conceived in the five hundred and twenty second cycle, I was selected to work in Li-Vir-To Accumulation Repository, one of four great libraries on Krinn-Eva. You humans seem to not mind splitting your data sites into thousands of small ones, but each of the four Repositories on my home world are the size of small cities. And all of us when we are born, are assigned to one where we learn. We simply spend a cycle learning and amassing data. At the end, we're all tested and put towards whatever discipline suits us best.”

“I... see.”

“I took a lot of interest in learning what data we had amassed on alien cultures. There wasn't much, but it grew with each passing day I spent there.”

“Right. Did Te-Sa-Va go through the same process?”

“Address me if you want to ask about me, human. And yes, I did,” the male ambassador said indignantly.

“Yes, we Krinn don't have as much variance in our backgrounds as you humans seem to. I will say that, although you may have already gathered, this is my first tour of duty as a diplomat. And in fact it's really only the third tour in total, and the first to involve humans and Bivarians. I really have lived my whole life for this. There isn't much else to say.”

“It seems odd that you've been made ambassador,” I stated, thinking it was strange that someone so fresh to space was in such a high level diplomatic position.

“Yes, it would to you, humans place a lot on experience, of climbing up the hierarchy and I can see how that works, but we Krinn place more on education. We're groomed for our rank. And in the end, I was picked from twenty four potential candidates. They then pick two as my aides. Should anything happen to me, a new Ambassador would be selected from the Aides, and then they are replaced from one of the shortlist. It is efficient, as they are already qualified.

“Qualification can breed ambition,” I said, “guess Re-Va-So wasn't happy she placed second.”

“No, we competed for this our whole lives almost. It's not easy for us to make friends with those who have eyes on the same positions in our society, so we don't tend to develop into social groups like other species seem to.” I was impressed by how much she seemed to understood the inherent differences between our cultures. I swigged down the last of my coffee, and with my belly now content, I sat patiently for Do-Mi-Ti to finish hers.

Retwinn's was a fibre maze of high end needlework. This stuff was the real stuff, not processed, but hand made and with attention to the finer details. The dull blue hue of the walls made the scattered arrangment of the display stands look like multi coloured clouds against the night sky. Sequinned shirts, silk jackets, gray bow ties, the works. Te-Sa-Va spoke with the clerk, and he and Do-Mi-Ti were taken to changing rooms. Do-Mi-Ti asked the clerk to measure for me for a suit.

“Yes, indeed, Gentleman, come with me,” the clerk, who was old, a little balding and looked like he may have designed all the work in the store himself, took me to a side room with a mirror. He was professionally dutiful in taking all my measurements, I barely noticed it. He then brought me the clothing, which surprised me. Tan breeches, a green undershirt, a beige coat and shoes. I was not an expert in the history of fashion, but I knew these clothes were designs from centuries ago. My visored eyes pointed at the clerk.

“Had you not heard, Mr Hawke? The function tonight is Rococo themed, and the Embassy suite has been redecorated for the occasion as well.”

“I see,” I sighed. I really could do without this high society nonsense. But I suppose the consulate wanted to impress the alien ambassadors with some historical flair. The clerk left me so I could get changed, to try on the ridiculous outfit. I wasn't surprised to find it fit impeccably, Retwinns didn't seem like they stood for anything less than perfection.

“Good, good, I made the right selections I see,” the doughy and smiling clerk said as he saw his results, “Come with me, the Ambassador wants a look at you.”

“Right,” I responded, picturing in my head how Do-Mi-Ti might look. To my disappointment, she had already changed out of whatever baroque dress she was going to wear.

“So this is how you humans are going to be dressed tonight. I can't say I care for it.”

“Neither do I, Ambassador, I feel like a peacock right now.” The ambassador laughed, and I covered my ears.

“I have seen images of those birds, an apt comparison. It seems to be how mating works with you humans as well, whoever has the most flashy appearance.”

“Am I seriously going to be wearing this get up at the Trade summit?” Do-Mi-Ti waved her talon at chest level which seemed to be their gesture for negative.

“You will wear gear that befits a guard for such events. The consulate has been kind enough to lend us a set for you. You will however attend the function in this dress. Because if I must suffer, you will to.” She said humourously.

“Swell,” I said, before going back to change again.

“Make sure you are diligent, Hawke, I expect first class work in return for your passage to Kismet,” she yelled after me. I waved my hand from behind,

“Of course, you'll get my best.”

We entered the Consulate about an hour before the beginning of the summit. This event was going to be quite rushed due to the hectic schedule of the Krinn's diplomatic tour. The building was like a series of discs stacked upon one another, gradually narrowing as you got to the top. Neon lighting and colourful carpeting and decorum cleverly disguised the monochrome construction of the building. The meeting chamber however did have pine wooded seating with royal blue leather padding and rich oak desks. Each race had it's own segment of the chamber and it's own side room. It didn't surprised me that these chambers were also often used for high level court hearings. As I understood it, the trade summit had a simple enough aim, to arrange the particulars involved for the Krinn to establish trade routes with the Nindral through Human and Bivarian space. And we weren't really representing any kind of obstacle besides, as ever, playing coy to get top dollar. The Bivarians were a different story given their natural inclination to distrust. When I said as much to Do-Mi-Ti as she sat studying her notes, she replied,

“Oh, I know, but the Imperium wants this to work. L'Vassa Kerasi took power only two human months ago, and seems keen to establish a trade network as an alternative to the prior Bivarian foreign policy of destabilisation and invasion. It just... goes against their nature.”

“Tell me about it,” I replied. It was only two years past that the Bivarians attempted an invasion of Sol, but poor organisation and planning left their invasion force crippled at Pluto by the 2nd UN Fleet. That failure eventually led to the former Imperium's demise.

“But I believe the Kerasi clan know the importance of adaptation. What might have worked for the Bivarian clans internally won't work for them among the interstellar community. It's only natural to look for mutual co-operation with other races for the greater benefit of the cluster as a whole.” I couldn't help but admire her relaxed poise in the face of what must have been a lot of pressure to get this deal done. Te Sa Va sat across the table feverishly calculating numbers.

“Yes, but you humans and Nindral and Aeglyth will still look to get as much as you can out of us for as little as possible. This is still a war as far as I'm concerned, a war of numbers,” he glared.

“Don't look at me, I'm just a guy with a gun and a guard's outfit.”

“Te-Sa-Va is very gifted at numbers, and I at words. Whoever put us together did know what they were doing, Hawke,” Do-Mi-Ti observed.

“I see. Well I hope that chemistry works out in practice, ambassadors.” I bowed, it was about time for me to be the silent guard as all the important people got down to business. The Earth delegation was headed by the head councillor of Proxima Station, Leia Jackson. Her rank was indicated by her decorative red collar, which contrasted well with her dark skin. So did her piercing white eyes for that matter. I adjusted my visor. She stood up in the central podium to address the three other delegations, the Krinn to her left, the Bivarians to her right, and the Nindral straight ahead, her own behind. It was a simple but effective layout. I didn't take in most of her introductory speech, I spent the time instead observing some of the other attendees. My eyes shot first for a group that stood out significantly in the human delegation, because they didn't really have human status. It was my second time proper seeing real live Aeglyth in the flesh. They didn't have a delegation at this meeting as it didn't really concern their territory. Guests of the consulate I had to guess, slumming it to see how the other races conduct negotiations. They weren't doing much beyond sitting and looking attractive, and they weren't paying much attention to proceedings. I got the sense if I had popcorn and could actually move far from my post I'd have given them some. They were spectators at best. My eyes did catch a female who was sitting at the end on the second from top row, who was a little less self-engaged than the rest. She was observing things in a way not unlike I was presently, and I did catch her eye. She waved at me, subtly. I saluted. Whoever she was, it was nice to be acknowledged sometimes. I couldn't really help myself and used the zoom function of my glyphian implants to get a closer look. She wore a white uniform with black arm sleeves. Her skin had a sparkly silver glow, and her eyes were violet. She had rested her head on her gloved hand and she looked right back at me. It was a beautiful face, to be sure, alien yet ideal, but I got a chill down my spine from the expression on it, and promptly got my eyes busy with other things. Now I was starting to realise why it may not be such a good thing for me to stand out as the only human among quite a lot of Krinn.

The summit was moving along peacefully in the early stages, not surprising given after Jackson's opening statement, a Nindral took the podium. Nindral males were squat little things that never really threatened their first metre. As such this one had to use a kind of hydraulic mini-platform to address the room proper. He declared his name as Keral and his rank as senior ambassador and representative holy commune all-mother, Tamith in a helium voice perpetuated with rough coughing which seemed to emphasise his lengthy title. He had four eyes set into a long horse-like face which ended in a smooth maw. The face was hairless, and black skinned, but his smooth fur was all rich brown, and he wore a padded grey outfit that made me think of an armadillo. It seemed literally designed so he could roll into a ball, and I had heard some funny things about nindral rolling into balls that I never believed. This cast doubt, and I laughed internally at this new revelation. The females ran the show with the Nindral but they rarely ever showed themselves outside of their home system. Something to do with how rarely the are born. They also apparently were very different from males, especially stature. Keral went on.

“On behalf of the Greater Nindral Commune, it is my pleasure to announce that an attending commune mother, her holiness Gren of the Dusky sky, will be attending the function being held later this evening. This honour is not something we bestow lightly, however we consider it a worthy gesture of honour to the Krinn Hive.” Do-Mi-Ti stood up and replied,

“We are honoured, senior ambassador,” with a tidy, healthy enthusiasm. Not too much, not too little, just right. She was a pro alright. Things on the Bivarian side were a little less slick. Four Bivarians sat at the front near the podium, meaning they were the important ones. I didn't know their names so for simplicity's sake I labelled them “Bored”, “Even More Bored”, “Twitchy” and “Could Explode”, from my left to right. The Twitchy one may have almost set the bomb off, elbowing it roughly, but it looked like it was a necessary motivator. The green scaled irritable Bivarian got up and addressed the Nindral.

“I, X'ianna, representative of the Kerasi clan, speak for the Imperium itself, to confirm we acknowledge this gesture of respect.” It sat down, it's metallic yellow and black armour clanging. For a Bivarian that was utterly dignified, and I actually respected how well it kept itself in check. Couldn't be easy for somebody who looked in the wrong dimension right about now. It was a warrior, I could tell by its demeanour. That and 95% of Bivarians fit that category, but especially so with this one. After that announcement, the delegates finally got down to business. And I started to lose track of the figures, locations, routes and business contracts they talked about, as a new term that had little meaning to me seemed to come up every five seconds. It was also pretty heated, but I noticed the Bivarian called X'ianna played no part. Just as well really, or somebody might lose their head. What I was able to make out was what Te-Sa-Va had talked about; the taxation aspect. The Krinn were going to be paying out quite hefty duties in order to make this route work, and for everybody to benefit. X'ianna took the podium again. It didn't look like she had calmed down any, but her raspy voice was clear and deliberately paced as she held out a rusty-coloured metallic datapad with a green glowing screen.

“Our mathematicians have calculated the total annual exporting tax levies the Krinn will be expected to pay to the Imperium for the first year of trade. On goods of nutritional value, there will be a three point five percent expectation. On materials of construction, this figure will be five percent,” I couldn't help but hear raised ire on my side at that proclamation, “and on goods of cultural value, ten percent.” The Krinn delegation kept their cool, but it was clear they did not like the sound of those figures one bit, and without a doubt they were high, double what the humans and Nindral expected, but closer to triple on the latter one. X'ianna went on, unperturbed. “With the expected projected exporting figures, starting at three hundred thousand tonnes per annum, the Imperium expects to receive approximately two million, four hundred and twenty five thousand UC from the Great Krinn hive.” At that, Te-Sa-Va shot up and assumed his position at the podium, putting him within two metres of the great lizard. I braced myself, I have no idea what the ambassador intended to do.

“Your figures do not match mine, X'ianna, representative of the Imperium.”

“You dare...” X'ianna started, only for Te-Sa-Va to snatch her datapad from her hand, an act which made the whole Bivarian side reach for imaginary weapons. Old habit, I imagined.

“Here is the problem,” Te-Sa-Va said almost as soon as he looked at the data. You have mistaken Chitin-meal to be a material. It is not, it may use our native chitin in it's ingredients, but it is a foodstuff, and one the Nindral have expressed interest in. A silly mistake, but not yours. I hope you discipline whoever did not do their research well enough.” Te-Sa-Va was either oblivious to the sheer anger on X'ianna's face or he had the utmost confidence in the security in this room. My money was on the former, as I doubted if claw came to talon that the Bivarian security would aid our side. “You would have actually cost your own Imperium five hundred thousand UC based on these inaccurate figures, and if this fact had been discovered later, it may have aided destabilisation of our government's relations.” X'ianna didn't actually say anything, but her snarling suggested a mix of shame and anger at being embarrased, and being unsure if that anger should be directed at the Krinn in front of her, or to the other Bivarians on her delegation. She stormed from the podium and sat back down, but grunted at another of her cadre.

“Y'satta, confirm the Krinn's figures, if they are correct, change our records to match.” The Bivarian she spoke to had yellow flakey scales and eyes to match, albeit with black tattoo markings designating its clan. Y'satta did as it was told without one word. X'ianna sat down, and Councillor Jackson took over.

“Well, with this error fixed before it could cause any difficulty, I believe these negotiations have served their purpose. The Greater Krinn Hive has been presented our finalised terms. The rest is up to the Hive itself. Te-Sa-Va stood up and made the direct response.

“I want to make clear my view that the Bivarians are being unreasonable and trying to profit dishonestly from our trade routes. However, the final decision does not belong to me, and we must first negotiate with the Trade Consortium on Kismet before that decision can be made.” The Bivarians this time made no indicator if the statement offended them. The Consortium of Kismet indeed represented another barrier to the Krinn agenda, perhaps the biggest one. It was an independent body ruled over by the great corporations of every race, and it ruled over an independent state. It was one reason why I was going there, as the laws of Terra did not apply, and there was no agreement in place between the two powers in regards to extradition. The Consortium however also wielded an incredibly influence on trading rates and prices, because it was built on so much capital. No trade deals were worth doing without the route passing Kismet at some point, and truth be told, it almost seemed like the home systems of Bivar, Nindral and Earth were simply in the way of the Krinn's route to the Consortium, and that was all this was about.

“On behalf of the Greater Krinn Hive, I want to thank you all for coming. This has been a profitable trade meeting, and I believe that this will eventually benefit us all. I look forward to the Function that has been organised by Councillor Jackson under the hospices of her Government. I hope to see you all there, and that with this business over with it will simply be a chance for all of us to better know one another.” Do-Mi-Ti's eyed the Bivarians as she spoke and put some force into her words. The words carried both expectation and daring. However, X'ianna Kerasi simply got up, turned her tail, and walked out. The action caused murmurs of disapproval even from her own side. It was quite disrespectful. The Bivarian named Y'satta took the stand and replied;

“By the Imperium's honour we will attend. I... I apologise on behalf of X'ianna, one is woefully inexperienced in matters of diplomacy and etiquette for rank, but one is important to the Imperium. I plead for patience in its regard.”

“Of course,” Do-Mi-Ti responsded. Both Jackson and Keral confirmed they will be attending the function and Keral once again mentioned Gren and stressed what an incredible gesture her attendance was. I was curious to see if she really was five metres tall, like I'd heard some Nindral females grew to. Do- Mi-Ti leaned over to me in a quiet moment.

“I did not like that X'ianna, it was no diplomat. Bivarians can act on animosity with no care of the consequences when not properly disciplined. It worries me, and I want you to make sure you are prepared for her if need be.” I sincerely hoped that wouldn't be the case, but, it was common knowledge where to shoot a Bivarian on Earth.

“Give me a bigger gun then.” Do-Mi-Ti sighed, at least I think it was a sigh, it was a long hollow, but quiet shrill.

“It would be for the best. I'm sure the Councillor will provide something if we request it.”  

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cicheah: Very well-knit story which sustains one's interest from beginning to end. Most enjoyable and a pleasure to read.

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Meri Amber: The plot is creative, fun and addictive! The writing is superb and the characters are really well put together. Definitely highly recommeded!

Angel S. Adames Corraliza: Sensational! As a fan of superheroes, I have to say, you have a real winner of a story so far. I like that you made Allison a Wonder Woman expy, but kept her likable and relate-able in this first chapter. You showed us the Mother while also glancing at the Superhero, which I think is important to...

cwoelk: I enjoyed reading this book, thought the characters were interesting, the premise exciting, and liked the happy ending.

Mark-Mikkel: Got directed here by the author herself. Started reading it, schoolday turned into a day of reading. I really like the apocaliptic world she has created. There are some oddities in the writing tho, but I guess they are because she did have to do it for NaNo (which she wrecked, good job!). In the ...

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FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"

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Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."

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Ro-Ange Olson: "Loved it and couldn't put it down. I really hope there is a sequel. Well written and the plot really moves forward."